August 29, 2016

Krakow: The Pope and the Holocaust; I Am Proudly & Humbly Connected to Both*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Mom died from leukemia way back in 1961. She had just turned 40 and, at the time, there were no cures, no chemo and no bone-marrow transplants. She was dead within six months of diagnosis.

We lived in the Bronx in a five floor walk-up. Grandma lived up on the fifth floor and we were down on the third.  Grandma gave up her apartment and moved in with us downstairs. I guess it was to help take care of the “little ones”; I was 15, Carolyn was 13, Danny was 11, Bobby was six and Johnny was two). But, it was not a good thing. Grandma hated dad because, for some bizarre reason, she decided he had killed her daughter and let him know it every chance she had.

I have no explanation for this nor will I ever. None of us do. Hey, we were kids, what did we know. Grandma’s grief was so intense that Dad could not handle it. It was just the way it was. Dad solved the problem by avoiding Grandma as much as possible. He just began hanging out in the local saloons which actually gave Grandma a real reason to yell at him.

On March 8, 1963, Grandma had a massive stroke. I saw her standing seemingly twisted in a body spasm and managed to drag her to the bed. I held her in my arms as she summoned the strength to say an Act of Contrition.  Looking me dead in the eye, she slowly slurred each word. Then we said an “Our Father” together. I was crying like a baby and so were my sister and brother, Danny. Dad was in the other room with Bobby and Johnny, waiting for the priest to show up. He was not crying.

When we finished praying she closed her eyes and became comatose. Father Quirk arrived and administered Last Rites. She died a few hours later in the hospital. That moment is etched forever in my brain’s “like it just happened” memory section.

What does Krakow and World Youth day have to do with all of that? Well, the first question that must be asked is, who was Grandma’s husband, our Grandpa? We were kids and had never asked. We never thought about it. That’s what kids do—take things for granted.

But then Mom was gone and Grandma was gone and Dad was drinking heavily. He died two years later. We had never gotten to the point of asking, “Hey, where is Grandpa?” Just like that it was too late. As adults we never found out—until four years ago. And now, with the Pope going to Krakow, Grandpa is in the forefront of my mind.  Krakow was Grandpa’s hometown.

Forced deportation from the Krakow ghetto, 1942   wikipediacommons
Our Mom had a brother, my namesake, Uncle Larry. He had been in the 8th Army Air-Force during World War II and his plane had been shot down on a bombing mission. He survived the war as a POW in the infamous Stalag 17. One time I asked him about his dad. He told me, “He died.” He never said another word.  That was that. Then we grew up, our folks were gone, and we lost contact as we began our own individual lives.

About four years ago I received a message on Facebook (kudos to Facebook) by none other than my long lost cousin, Vicki, Uncle Larry’s oldest. She had been on a “quest” and located me. Like dominoes perfectly colliding, my sister and brothers and cousins all reconnected. Now, to the point of this essay.

What follows may seem implausible but it is true and we have the documentation to confirm it. Vicki had been wondering about the missing Grandpa too. Her dad told her the same thing he had told me. Now he was gone. But she never stopped wondering and began a journey into the world of genealogy.  Lo and behold, she unraveled the mystery of the missing Grandpa.

Our grandma was an immigrant from Austria. A devout Catholic who never missed Mass, she married a man by the name of Isidore Schul. This was our grandfather. He was a Hebrew man from Krakow. Our maternal grandfather was Jewish. Shocker of shockers, the immigration papers and naturalization papers all confirm this. He made it to America in 1910.

We cannot understand how these two unlikely people connected, got married and had two children, one of them our own mother. But it was so and that mystery will never be unraveled. We dubbed our long, lost, mysterious grandfather, Grandpa Irv. He and grandma split up when Mom and Uncle Larry were young children. Grandpa Irv died in the Bronx in 1965. We will never know more than I revealed here.

But here is the thing. Cradle Catholics, we are also 25% Jewish. Grandpa Irv was the only one of his family to get to America. His parent’s names were Simon and Regina Schul. Simon and Regina are our great-grandparents. We do not know if they died in the Holocaust or before it began but apparently, from what Vicki discovered, Grandpa Irv’s siblings did. Probably in Ravensbruck but it might have been Auschwitz.

For me, personally, I am humbled by this connection. Jesus, the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, their  relatives, St. Ann, St. Joachim, and the apostles etc. were all Jewish. They were also the first Catholics. And today, as I write this, Pope Francis is in Krakow, Grandpa Irv’s hometown. I feel connected to it all and the Holocaust has a whole new meaning for me. It is all part of my heritage. My “own people” were killed there.  SHALOM

*This article also appeared in Aleteia. org on July 28,2016


                                     ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

August 21, 2016

This College Kid Can Teach All of Us a Lesson*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Most Catholics know of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. The Society has been helping people in need for over 180 years. What most Catholics do not know is that St. Vincent de Paul is not the founder of the society. It is simply named after him because of his lifelong example of Christian charity. So, if it was not founded by St. Vincent de Paul where did it come from? How did it begin? What does St. Vincent de Paul have to do with it?

This is the very first paragraph from the Mission Statement of the St. Vincent de Paul Society

Inspired by Gospel values, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic lay organization, leads women and men to join together to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering in the tradition of its founder, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, and patron, St. Vincent de Paul.”

As you finish that paragraph you will notice the name of Frederick Ozanam. Please, take a moment to meet him here. He happens to be the founder of the oldest Catholic charity in the United States of America, The St. Vincent de Paul Society.


Bl. Frederick Ozanam (as young man) courtesy slideshare.net
Frederick Ozanam was born in Milan, Italy in 1813. He was the fifth of fourteen children of Jean and Marie Ozanam and only one of three who lived into adulthood. The family moved to Lyons, France and this was where Frederick grew up. As a teenager the young man was strongly influenced by the elitists of the day and his Catholic faith began to waiver. Frederick fought his doubts and overcame them. Vowing to consecrate himself to the defense of his faith he moved to Paris. He was 18 years old.

Frederick entered the University of Paris and took up journalism. He made friends with some other young Catholic men and soon he and a few of his new friends were involved in vigorous debates among secular students who challenged their preaching for lack of action.

The secularists told them that maybe ‘long ago’ the Catholic Church was a benefactor of humanity but those days were over. They were then asked what they were doing for people now? Frederick and his pals had no answer. They were laughed at and told they were hypocrites and basically did nothing but talk.

Frederick’s friend, Augustus Le Tailandier, asked Frederick if they might be able to put together a small group of Catholics to bring to action the Gospel message of “doing” instead of just ”talking”. Thus was born the “Conference of Charity”. This small group of Catholic/Christian young men who would not only devote themselves to helping the needy but would also advance Christian friendship.

Frederick had been submitting copy to Joseph Emmanuel Bailly who published the Tribune Catholique. He asked Mr. Bailly what he thought of their idea. He liked it so much that he joined Frederick and together they and four other young men held their very first meeting on April 23, 1833. Frederick Ozanam was 20 years old.

At that first meeting Emmanuel Bailly sent Frederick to see Sister Rosalie Rendu, a “Daughter of Charity”. Sister Rosalie became Frederick’s mentor and set him and his fledgling organization on its course by focusing them on doing “home visits” to those in need. This method of interaction was to become the primary way members would interact with those seeking their help. It remains that way to this day.

 In the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul, the founder of her order, she also taught Frederick and his followers the techniques of helping the poor and the sick by being compassionate and always treating people with their God given dignity. They invoked St. Vincent de Paul as their patron and named the group, in his honor, The St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Frederick Ozanam and his friends could never have dreamed of the way the Society would grow. Within 12 years from its inception it had spread to Italy, England, Belgium, Scotland and the United States. The society chose St. Louis, Missouri as its headquarters in America and to this day the National Council of The St. Vincent de Paul Society USA is located there.

Today in the United States there are more than 160,000 trained volunteers who provide almost 12 million hours of volunteer service helping those in need. There are close to 750,000 members doing volunteer work all around the world. And all of it was started by a 20 year old kid responding to the graces showered down upon him and inspiring those around him to join in his quest to stop “talking and start doing”.

Frederick Ozanam was beatified on August 22, 1997 by Pope John Paul II. His mentor, Sister Rosalie, was beatified on November 9, 2003. We ask them both for their continued prayers for all of us, especially those in need.

*An edited version of this article appeared in Aleteia on August 15, 2016

                                 ©Larry Peterson 2016  All Rights Reserved

August 8, 2016

The Deadliest Forest Fire in U.S. History was No Match for The Blessed Virgin Mary*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

On October 8, 1871, in or around a place called Peshtigo, Wisconsin, several men were setting small fires in the woods. This was a common practice in clearing land for expanding railroads or for expanding farm land. Except on this particular day something unexpected happened. A cold front moved into the area creating winds that were close to hurricane force. The winds fanned the flames and the resulting Peshtigo Firestorm still can claim the ignominious title as the "deadliest wildfire" in American History.

                                               Skeeze - CC
To this day, no wildfire in the U.S. has ever caused more deaths. It is estimated close to 2500 people perished in the raging 2,000 degree inferno. But there is an incredible side-bar to this story. Miraculously, there was a small group who were not harmed at all and they were right in the middle of the blaze. This small group of people were with Adele Brise.

Adele Brise was 24 years old when she arrived in Wisconsin with her parents from Belgium in 1855. A devout Catholic, Adele had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother and prayed daily. On Sunday, October 2, 1859, Adele was walking home through the woods when she saw a woman clothed in white  standing between a hemlock and a maple tree. The woman was encased in a bright light and had a yellow sash around her waist.  A crown of stars was above her long, blond hair. Adele, filled with fear, began praying and the vision disappeared. She told her mom and dad about it and they told her that maybe it was a soul in need of prayers.

The following Sunday, Adele, was on her way to Mass with her sister and another woman when she saw the apparition a second time. But her sister and friend, who were walking a bit ahead of her, did not see anything. Returning from Mass, the Lady appeared to Adele for the third time. Adele, who had confided in her parish priest about the mysterious lady, did as he told her. She asked the lady the question, "In the Name of God, who are you and what do you wish of me?"

The Lady answered, "I am the Queen of Heaven who prays for the conversion of sinners and I wish you to do the same. You received Holy Communion this morning and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners...Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation."

Adele was afraid. She knew little about her faith. She asked how she was supposed to do this with so little knowledge. The Blessed Virgin told her, "Teach them their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the Cross, and how to approach the Sacraments; that is what I wish you to do. Go and fear nothing, I will help you."

Adele took the Blessed Virgin's words to heart. She began her new, lifelong ministry of teaching children the Catholic faith by traveling by foot from house to house to instruct children in their homes. Adele's dad, Lambert Brise, built a small wooden structure at the sight of the apparition and a few years later, after Isabella Doyen donated five acres around the site, Adele, started a small school.
In addition, a bigger wooden church was built and it was named Our Lady of Good Help.

In the meantime the magnificent woodlands of Wisconsin were being harvested for their fine lumber. Mounds of sawdust and dried branches were being littered about with no sense of cleanup or conservation ever considered. Then came the evening of October 8, 1871. The Peshtigo Fire quickly exploded and began to devour the entire area with its rushing flames and 2000 degree heat. The firestorm began to head for Our Lady of Good Help.

People nearby the chapel began heading there.There was never an accurate count but many people came, some even bringing their livestock. Sister Adele organized them together and they all prayed the rosary. Outside the chapel they  processed,  holding high a statue of Mary pleading for her protection. The fire kept coming and the people moved inside the chapel and continued praying. Soon the fire raged all around the compound and the flames even arched over it. But the fire never touched the Chapel of Our Lady of Good Help or the people that were there.

Over one million acres were destroyed in the Peshtigo Firestorm. As far as the eye could see was total devastation. Yet, in the middle of it all, the Chapel of Our Lady of Good Help and  the fenced property surrounding it, was untouched. The property had been spared and no-one had been hurt, including the animals. The five acres sat amid the charred landscape like an oasis in the desert. People who came and saw this incredible sight knew it was the Hand of God at work that night. The faithful all had no doubt that the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Good Help, stood outside the chapel deflecting the raging inferno away from her children inside.

The story of Sister Adele and Our Lady of Good Help was always well known within the local culture and to the faithful but many considered it "urban legend". That was because there was never an "official ecclesiastical judgment" rendered. Then, in 2009, the Diocese of Green Bay launched an official investigation. On December 8, 2010, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a special Mass was offered on the site  by Bishop David Ricken. At the Mass the bishop declared that the Marian apparitions seen there by Adele Brise were "worthy of belief".

The site of the apparitions of Our Lady of Good Help is only one of 15 worldwide recognized for Marian apparitions.  It is the only one in the United States. Since its ecclesiastical recognition and approval, The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help is rapidly growing as a site for pilgrims from around the world. It is a beautiful thing.

*An edited version of this appeared in Aleteia on July 28,2016
*On August 15, 2016, the site was declared a National Shrine:  http://www.thecompassnews.org/2016/08/olgh-shrine-receives-national-shrine-recognition/


                               ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

July 22, 2016

"The Kids Need a Bed Tonight"*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson


Three days a week, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m they come and they wait. Three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday they come just to get a drop of reprieve from the outreach center; a bus pass to the VA or to get to a job interview, a bag of groceries, a voucher to get used clothes at the thrift store, maybe a small amount of money to help pay an overdue utility bill, and sometimes just to talk to someone, anyone who will listen.

The homeless, the disabled, the sick, the unemployed, the downtrodden, the marginalized, addicts and ex-cons just out of the "big-house" all stop by. All are different, yet all are living with one common denominator running their lives---survival.

It was 8:30 a.m. and the sun was already doing its thing, slowly roasting the folks as they waited patiently for the doors to open, some having been there since 7 a.m. Florida, ah yes, palm trees, blue skies and beaches--just another day in paradise.

Andre and Jessica had made the three mile walk to the St. Vincent de Paul outreach office and had arrived at 8 a.m. They signed in and were #11 on the list. At 10:15 a man opened the door and called their name. As they approached he smiled and said, "Hi folks, c'mon in. Sorry it took so long. How you guys doing today?"


He knew how they were doing and they knew that he knew but his friendly, unbureaucratic manner quickly put them at ease. "Okay, have a seat. I'm Joe. At least it's cool in here, right?"

They sat, sighed and let the cool A/C soak into their overheated bodies. They said nothing.

"Well now," Joe said looking straight at them, "I can see you have some heavy duty stuff going on. I hope we can help. So, what exactly is happening?"

They were a mixed race couple and they could feel inside themselves that whoever this man was it did not matter at all. You can just sense some things. They loosened up. Andre began to speak and tears quickly fell from Jessica's eyes. "Look, man, we got two kids, six and eight years old, and we're getting kicked out of our place at 11 a.m. if we don't come up with $58.00, and we ain't got a dime."

"Where are the kids now?" Joe asked.

“With a neighbor. Look, we don't care so much about us but the kids need a bed tonight, know what I mean?"

"I do Andre, I do. And for what it's worth, you guys need a bed too. Where you staying?"

"Barkley Motel over on---"

"Oh yeah, I know the place well. Here's the thing, Andre, we don't pay rent monies from this office. We just don't have the funds. But let me make a call."

Joe picked up the phone and pushed the numbers for the Barkley. He knew them by heart. He smiled kindly at them and, as he waited for an answer, twirled his finger in the air as if to say, "C'mon--pick up already".

After several moments went by he said, "Hello, hey Sam, this is Joe over at the St. Vincent de Paul outreach office. I have a couple here, Andre and Jessica-----What? What are you talking about? You have to be kidding me. They have until 11:00 a.m. Look Sam, these folks need that room now--not a new one tomorrow. You should have called me. Now, just “unrent” their room. I’ll be over myself about 12:15."

Andre's and Jessica's hopes had risen and fallen in a matter of moments. Andre, a big man, said, "Man, what we gonna do?"

Joe asked, "What happens after tomorrow? Getting through today is almost like a stay of execution."

"No, no, tomorrow I know I can get some work. Just gotta get through today. Plus, we got a place lined up for next week. Her mom worked it out. She's up in Jersey and she knew someone and, anyway, come Saturday we'll be okay. She’s even sending bus tickets for the greyhound over on 9th St. We leave Saturday afternoon. Next week is 4th of July and we plan on being in Jersey and celebrating. We just gotta get through till Saturday."

"No kidding, Andre. That's awesome. But today is only Wednesday. Well, we can't have the kids without beds tonight….and tomorrow too. Now, here is a food voucher. Go across the street to the pantry and get some groceries. Then bring them home with you."

"They ain't been too nice to us over at the motel. And if I ain’t got the $58.00 they won’t let us in."

"Don't you worry about that. Trust me, okay. You go back there, everything will be all right."

It was almost 1 p.m. when they arrived back at the motel. They walked to the front desk  and Sam, the manager, smiled at them. "Okay, I have good news for you. You're paid up through Saturday."

Jessica almost collapsed from relief. Andre held her up and a happy tear rolled down his cheek.

Back at the St. Vincent De Paul office Joe finished up the paperwork from the 23 clients he had served that day. As he filed Andre and Jessica’s sheet into the folder, he held it up for a moment, looked at it and smiled. And a well-deserved smile it was.

* An edited version of this appeared in Aleteia on July 2, 2016


                             ©  Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

July 9, 2016

A "Gangbanger"s Journey from Hoodlum to Saint*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

The following is true. And even though it may have happened 700 years ago, in many ways people then were like people now. When it comes to our wants,  needs and emotions nothing has changed. And when it comes to family love; especially when it comes to family love coupled with prayer, that often makes for an unbreakable bond for all eternity.

Arnold Armengol was a member of the Spanish hierarchy. His son, Peter, in spite of being given the finest education and upbringing, rejected all of that and left home. He quickly fell into the secular trap of self-centeredness, self-gratification, and outright depravity. He even joined a band of criminals that preyed on people traveling up into the mountains. Peter was so good at this work he eventually became the gang leader.

Two years after Peter left home, his dad  was asked by King Jaime of Aragon to lead him on a journey to Montpellier so he might meet with the King of France. King Jaime had heard of the brigands that preyed on mountain travelers and knew that Arnold would be the one who would keep them safe.

As Arnold Armengol led the King’s entourage through the mountain passes they were attacked by a band of highwayman. As the robbers charged toward them. Armengol led his men in a counter attack. With his sword drawn he headed directly for the leader of the pack. They were about to engage each other when the brigand fell to his knees. He had recognized his father and with tears streaming down his face, prostrated himself at his feet . Surrendering his sword, he begged his father for forgiveness. The constant praying of Peter’s father for his boy were about to be answered in an amazing way.

Peter Armengol, repentant and seeking mercy, was filled with shame.  He appealed to King James I for a second chance. Standing before the King with his dad at his side the King granted young Peter a pardon. Shortly thereafter, heeding the graces offered to him by God, he entered a Mercedarian Monastery in Barcelona. Soon after, Peter Armengol became known as Friar Peter.

St. Peter Armengol by Vincent Carducho  (17 century)
The mission of the Mercedarians, (The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy) founded by St. Peter Nolasco, was to ransom Catholics taken hostage. Peter excelled at this task and, over a period of eight years, managed to negotiate the freedom of many hostages from the Saracens. . (The Mercedarians take a fourth vow. Besides poverty, chastity and obedience they also vow to always be ready to exchange their own lives to free a hostage).   

Friar Peter then headed to Africa with Friar William Florentino. His goal was to  ransom Christians from the Moors. On arrival in a place called Bugia, he heard about 18 Christian children being held hostage. They were under the threat of death if they did not renounce Christianity. Friar Peter offered himself in exchange for the hostages. The captors agreed but warned Peter that if the ransom was not paid on time he would suffer brutal torture and death.

The arrival of the agreed ransom and Friar Peter’s release were scheduled for a certain day. The ransom never arrived. Peter was immediately put to torture and endured this for days on end. The Moors, tired of Friar Peter being alive, accused him of blaspheming Mohammad. He was sentenced to be hanged.

Friar Peter was hanged from a tree. His body was left there for the birds of prey to feed on. Six days later Friar William arrived with the ransom. The Moors refused it and told Friar William that Peter was already dead for six days and his rotted corpse was still hanging from the tree. Distraught, William went to recover his brother Mercedarian’s body.

William left and headed to the execution site. As he approached he noticed that Peter’s body seemed to be intact. In fact, there was a fragrance of flowers in the air. William slowly approached the body of Peter. The man who was supposedly dead for six days began to speak. He explained how the Blessed Virgin had come to him and was holding  him up with her precious hands so his body would not hang on the rope.

Peter Armengol, when recalling the miracle of his hanging, told his Mercedarian brothers that the happiest days of his life were those six days that he hung from the gallows supported by the Blessed Virgin Mary. Peter’s neck, broken from the hanging, remained in a twisted position for the rest of his life and he always had a sickly complexion. Seven documented miracles were attributed to him while he was still alive.

Peter Armengol was canonized a saint on April 8, 1687 by Pope Innocent XI. On this Father's Day we might also remember how his dad, Arnold Armengol, prayed unceasingly for the safe return of his son. His prayers were surely answered,  a lesson for us all.

*An edited version of this article also appeared in Aleteia on June 16, 2016

                             ©Larry Peterson 2016  All Rights Reserved

July 6, 2016

The "Protector" Saint of the Mexican Border*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Sometime during the early summer of 1973, Jesus Gaytan and two friends began making their way north to the United States. They were planning to ‘”sneak” across the border and find work as farmhands. They did not care where, they just wanted to work.

At the border their plans quickly unraveled. They were spotted by the Border Patrol and, frightened, ran back toward Mexico. Jesus became separated from his friends and began wandering around the desert. He had no idea where he was. After several days of walking and wandering and without any food or water left, Jesus was sure he would die.

As he stared across the bleak landscape peering through the undulating heat waves rising from the ground, he saw a pickup truck coming his way. Not knowing who was approaching, he became instantly afraid and yet also relieved. The truck pulled up and a young man with light skin and blue eyes stepped out. He smiled and gave Jesus food and water. Then he directed him to a nearby farm where they needed workers. He also gave Jesus a few dollars to keep in his pocket. Jesus thanked him profusely and asked him where he could return the money to him.

Speaking perfect Spanish the man said to him, “When you finally get a job and money, look for me in Santa Ana de Guadalupe, Jalisco. Ask for Toribio Romo.”

And so the story goes that years later Jesus Gaytan did make that trip to Santa Ana de Gaudalupe. When he arrived he asked how he could find Toribio Romo. He was directed to the small church nearby. Hanging on the outside of the chapel was a large picture. Jesus stared wide-eyed looking up at the picture. It was the man from the desert, Toribio Romo.

Jesus had arrived at Toribio’s shrine where his remains were kept. He was shocked to learn that the man who had helped him in the desert 20 years before had been beatified in 1992 by Pope John Paul II. He was doubly shocked that his rescuer had been murdered in 1928 during the Cristero War.  Jesus Gaytan realized he had been saved by a man sent from heaven.

Luciano Lopez tells of being on his way to Colorado to find work when he got lost in the encapsulating heat of the Arizona desert. Luciano tells of seeing a “shadowy” figure standing next to what appeared to be an ocean. Luciano told how the person waved him to him and how he began walking. He was led right to a rest-stop with food and water and he was saved. When he told his wife back in Mexico she said, “It was St. Toribio, the migrant-smuggling saint, leading you to safety. I have been praying to him for your well-being.”

Toribio Romo was born on April 16, 1900 in Santa Ana de Guadalupe, Jalisco, Mexico. He was, with permission from the bishop, ordained a priest at the young age of 22. His age did not matter to the authorities. The anti-religious Constitution of Mexico had been enacted in 1917. Toribio may have been only 22 but he was immediately placed under watch by the government. Then along came the fateful year of 1927. That was the year that the Catholic hating president of Mexico, Plutarco Ellas Cartes, ordered his soldiers to strictly enforce the anti-religious Constitution of 1917.

Besides saying Mass “under the radar” and making sick calls and hearing confessions, Father Toribio had also been teaching catechism to both children and adults. Now he was told to confine himself to his residence and to not say the Rosary in public or offer Mass. The young priest took up refuge in an old factory near a town called Agua Caliente. Here he defied the secular authority and celebrated Mass and tended to his ministry the best he could.

On February 22, 1928,  Father Toribio, began organizing his parish registry. He finished doing that on February 24. Father Toribio knew the danger he was in and he was afraid. He prayed daily for God’s grace and strength but would not let his fears stop him from doing his work. It was 4: 00 am on February 25 when the young priest climbed into his bed to get some sleep.

An hour later government troops stormed the place and broke into the priest’s bedroom. One soldier shouted, “I have found the priest. Kill him!”

Father Toribio said, “Here I am but you do not have to kill me.”

The soldiers did not care. One soldier fired and the wounded priest stood up and began to walk toward the soldiers. After a few steps they opened fire and Father Toribio Romo fell dead. The story of the young priest’s martyrdom spread quickly and his popularity soared. Many Mexicans who have headed north tell inspiring stories about how their lives were saved through the intervention of Father Toribio.

In 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized Father Toribio and 24 other martyrs murdered for their faith during the Cristero War. Today, Santo Toribio Romo, is honored as the Patron Saint of Mexican migrants and “border crossers”. He is a saint who all Mexican and American Catholics should pray to for help with the border crisis confronting us today.

Saint Toribio Romo, pray for us.

*This article appeared in Aleteia in June of 2016


                                   ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

June 30, 2016

Meet the "Madman" of the Sacred Heart*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

*An edited version of this article appeared in Aleteia on June 3, 2016

Every year, exactly 19 days after Pentecost, the Catholic Church  celebrates the Devotion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus . It is a worldwide devotion and is always on a Friday. This year it will be celebrated on June 3. Stressing the profound relevance of this feast, Pope Benedict XVI said on June 5, 2007;
 "In the Heart of the Redeemer we adore God's love for humanity, His will for universal salvation, His infinite mercy. Practising devotion to the Sacred Heart of Christ therefore means adoring that Heart which, after having loved us to the end, was pierced by a spear and from high on the Cross poured out blood and water, an inexhaustible source of new life."

I have mentioned that this is a worldwide Catholic feast day our Pope Emeritus, has spoken to its importance. This caused me to wonder why so many Catholics around the world (including  those in the United States) have never heard about the man from Mexico whose name was Jose Maria Robles Hurtado .

St. Jose Robles Hurtado; "Madman of the Sacred Heart"

Jose Robles Hurtado was 25 years old when he was ordained to the priesthood. The year was 1913. He loved his priestly calling and, being a gifted writer, immediately began writing essays and lessons to teach and propagate the faith. He had such love of  Christ in the Eucharist that within two years of his ordination he founded an order of religious called the  Congregation of the Victims of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus. But his love for his Lord was also being noticed by the authorities. Father Hurtado was already going against the new laws being enacted in Mexico.

The young priest was so devoted to the Sacred Heart that his fervor for this devotion became known far and wide. He even became known as the "Madman" of the Sacred Heart. But that was in Mexico. It was also during the intense anti-religious era of Catholic/Christian persecution that was beginning to rear its demonic head in the country. Evil finally became the rule of law when in 1917 the anti-religious Constitution of Mexico was enacted.

The new constitution prohibited public professions of faith, public processions and most devotional practices "outside" of church. (Have we heard this narrative advanced in our country?) Father Hurtado promptly proposed a project where a huge cross would be placed somewhere in the center of Mexico to honor Christ as the true King of Mexico. He was now in direct violation of the law.

The plans for the project began  to come together as Father Hurtado led the  movement to erect the giant cross. Signs were distributed throughout Mexico declaring Christ as the King of Mexico. These signs also proclaimed the nation's devotion to the Sacred Heart. Word spread quickly throughout the country and a public ceremony was scheduled for the laying of the project's cornerstone.  Government leaders were furious.

In 1923 over 40, 000 Roman catholics headed to a spot in central Mexico called "La Loma" (the hill). The groundbreaking took place and the government decided it was time to intensify the "law". Persecution of Catholics intensified and Father Robles Hurtado was singled out for intense scrutiny to make sure he stopped his "anti-government" practices.

Father Hurtado, despite demands by the government that he leave the country, continued his ministry, offering Mass, hearing confessions for hours at a time, visiting the poor and the sick, performing baptisms, anointing the dying  and teaching the children.the faith. Then came 1924 and a new president. His name was Plutarco Elias Calles and he held a fierce hatred of Roman Catholics.

Presidente Calles was determined to stop all religious practices within Mexico. He ordered the Constitution of 1917 to be strictly enforced and the result was one of the bloodiest episodes in Mexican history. From 1927 through 1929 the Cristero War ravaged Mexico and Father Jose Robles Hurtado was destined to be one of its victims.

As has been proven throughout history, when certain people gain power that power can become an evil aphrodisiac. Hiding behind "laws" enacted to help them attain their goals of domination, they can kill with a reckless, oftentime vicious, abandon. The evil at work in Mexico was not about to ignore the young priest.

On June 25, 1927, while leading a family in prayer at their home, soldiers broke into the house and arrested Father Hurtado for "violating the law". He was immediately found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. In this world there would be no appeals.

The next morning, before dawn, Father Jose Maria Robles Hurtado, age 39, was led out to a nearby oak tree. The priest, facing his immediate death, offered an understanding and compassion for his executioners. He  forgave them and insisted that he be allowed to place the noose around his own neck. This way none of the men there would have to feel guilty about what was happening. He was handed the noose, kissed it, and slid it over his head. Then he went to meet his beloved Sacred Heart.
Several of the executioners openly wept.

Father Jose Robles Hurtado, the "Madman" of the Sacred Heart. was canonized a saint by Pope St. John Paul II on May 21, 2000.

                                     ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

June 18, 2016

Pope Francis--The Foremost Ambassador of Humility

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson                                      

 This is from the Gospel of Luke; Chapter 9: vs 46-50
An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest.
Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.  For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is greatest."

This gospel reading is all about the greatest of all the 'deadly' sins, Pride. It is also about the greatest of all 'heavenly' virtues, Humility. This is a "clash of the titans" of Evil vs Good. And it makes me think about Pope Francis with his innocent smile and his natural affinity to children and the disabled and downtrodden. It makes me realize that the most famous man on the planet is also the most humble.

 Pope Francis, without trying and by just being who God made him to be, wears this mantle of humility without fanfare, showmanship, pretentiousness or anything that might be self-serving in any manner.
Pope Francis

Yes, he wears that mantle and it is always fastened to his shoulders with the clasp of Love. In so doing he shows the whole world what it means to think of yourself last before all others. (Don’t you love the black shoes he wears)?

Jorge Mario Bergoglio never asked to be a bishop or a cardinal. He never "lobbied" for these positions or sought them out in any way. He did not have "super-pacs" at his beckoned call when the vacancy for Pope opened. He simply loved being a priest, working with the poor and homeless and doing his best to follow God's call so he would make his life pleasing to Him.

Make no mistake, God called him to the papacy. The secular world mocks that concept but that is why they cannot experience the joy the faithful experience when he visits other countries and millions of these folks turn out to see him, waving and singing and even crying as he goes by. If they could only swallow their damn pride a bit and open their hearts they may find the elusive peace that evades them.

Pope Francis is the successor to St. Peter. He is filled with the Holy Spirit. That Spirit leads him to stop his motorcade and wade into a crowd of children and hug them and kiss their foreheads. It compels him to embrace the crippled, the disfigured, the mentally challenged, the homeless as well as the "uppity-ups". He has no qualms about walking into a prison and embracing hard-core murderers, rapists, thieves, and drug dealers.

During his stop in Washington, D.C. last year, the Pope visited with President Obama and then, after offering Mass in the Cathedral, made a point of going to the offices of the Little Sisters of the Poor. He was sending a message to the entire world about the solidarity that exists within the Church when it comes to respect for life, ALL life.

That message required no words---just action. The Pope gave that message by meeting with the Sisters who take care of the elderly poor, free of charge and have been doing so since St. Jeanne Jugan founded the order back in 1841. The fact that the Holy Father had just visited with the President of the United States surrounded by the opulence attached to the visit and then, after being cheered by millions as he headed to the Cathedral, mattered not. His smile was broadest while he spent his short time with the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Pope Francis leaves every country he visits a more contented and inspired nation. He reaches out to everyone and many respond. And the reason is so basic; he represents the Goodness and Love that Jesus Christ brings to us. He is His ambassador on earth. He does his work well. But, as is the way of things, after he leaves a place, the pride that consumes humankind comes back and makes itself known again. The good news is, after a Papal Visit, pride has fewer followers.

Thank you Holy Father, for the grace, inspiration, love and example you give us. Hopefully we can get you back to America soon. Our country could use a booster shot of humility, especially in the political arena.



                                         ©Larry Peterson 2016  All Rights Reserved

June 12, 2016

The Catholic Church—Saying “NO” to a World Screaming “YES”

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

How did the precepts of ethics and morality, based on the Ten Commandments and the "Golden Rule", become a pariah to so many? How did these principles ever become inverted?  Why have they seemingly been tossed by many into the dumpster of the outdated and irrelevant?

There is one critical aspect that drives this onslaught and I think we do not pay close enough attention to it. Those that are flailing away at our religious heritage and freedoms are not committing these attacks on their own. They have a brilliant, diabolical, hate-consumed leader inspiring them onward.

Their leader's name is Satan and he is the Master of deceit and deception. Satan's biggest and most hated enemy after Jesus Christ is the church that Jesus founded, the Catholic Church. Satan’s hatred for the true Church of Christ is unimaginable. That is because it still spits in his evil eye and says NO!

Over the centuries it has withstood his evil onslaughts even when they came from within. It also rejects today’s “liberation theology”, the perverse philosophy that suggests “Jesus wants you to be happy so just enjoy yourself.” The fact is, Jesus wants us to be happy with him in heaven. This is the testing grounds where we can earn the “right’ to join Him there—not decide what that “right” is.

 The Church has teachings that have been in place for two thousand years. But secularists maintain that the Church has "nerve and audacity" to use the words, SIN and MORALITY.  In today's self-indulged, secular world it seems anyone who might suggest that a particular behavior is "immoral" or "sinful" is branded and vilified as intolerant, hateful, racist and even uncaring.

 How pompous and pride filled this is. Only the new age secularists would have the audacity to suggest that their inverted "virtue" is GOOD and the concept of self-denial is SINFUL.

My favorite comic book character was, Superman. Occasionally, Superman would get stuck in an alternative universe called "Bizarro World". It was a place where everything was backwards. Up was down, hello meant good-bye and yes meant no. Even the planet, Htrae, (Earth backwards), was shaped like a cube. It is the same with the folly of inverted secular virtue. I call this world "Secularro".

On Secularro killing is "Good" and if you stand against it you are bad. For instance, take abortion, infanticide, euthanasia and partial-birth abortion. The church says NO! On Secularro the Church is now bad. Fornication and people "hooking up" for one-night stands is heralded as "Good". The church says NO!  On Secularro the church is told to mind its own business. Divorced and remarried Catholics want to receive the Holy Eucharist. The church, as it always has done, says NO!

On Secularro, the church is deemed intolerant and insensitive and is out of touch with the modern world and needs to get into the 21st century. Homosexuals demand to be married in the Church. The Church says NO!  Marriage is between a man and a woman ONLY. Satan screams from his evil world to his followers, Say “YES! YES! YES!" Holy Mother Church says “NO!” In the alternative universe, the Catholic Church is evil.

On Secularro the inverted unwittingly listen to Satan’s message and pound on the dogmatic doors of the Catholic Church demanding that they be opened to personal wants and desires. Unlike Bizarro World where things are just 'crazy' on Secularro, things are mean and vindictive. Secularro is ruled by hate. Satan is Hate.

There are other Christian denominations that have succumbed to outside pressures and reworked their "teachings" to accommodate the demands from Secularro. They have been praised as "progressive" and "in touch" with the needs of the citizens of Secularro. The reality is, they have failed their followers. But the Catholic Church has not caved into the demands and pressures and it never will. Therefore, Satan hates all things Catholic and always will.

The Catholic Church still teaches that there are Seven Deadly Sins. They are pride, greed,  lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth aka laziness. Note the key word in describing these sins is the word "deadly". The Church teaches that these sins can destroy the soul of anyone who might indulge these human appetites. The church also offers forgiveness for falling prey to these sins. This forgiveness is available 24/7.

On Secularro, the church is mocked and laughed at for suggesting these actions offend God. These acts are acceptable because an individual committing one of these sins is just being human and God made us that way and wants us to be "happy". So--sin away. Just remember, if you subscribe to that concept the victory in the fight for your soul goes to Satan.

It is time to start looking hard at the Bible. And we might start by going to St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians. Chapter 6: 16-17.

In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield,
To quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit,
which is the word of God.

                                 
                                        ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved

June 4, 2016

Missing From the 2016 Presidential Campaign—any Mention of God & Religion

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

There is an old cliche which says, "One thing you should never argue or discuss is politics or religion."

One thing is for sure, when it comes to politics and politicians no one is mentioning anything about religion. They leave the 'religion' out and argue 'politics'. They not only argue with each other they debase, defame, denigrate, disparage and verbally abuse each other relentlessly and with a no-holds, reckless abandon that is disgraceful but apparently acceptable because, "that's politics". On the other hand, they will rarely, if ever, mention God or religion.

 According to all of the latest polls, the items  of prime importance to the American voter in 2016 are: a)  the economy; b)  jobs; c) immigration and d)  terrorism. Unbelievably (to me) there is little mention about the incessant attacks and rulings against our religious freedom(s). How can this be?

I am fascinated by these polling results not so much for what they say and/or predict but for what they avoid. They completely seem to ignore the religious backdrop of the American story. Religious freedom is the cornerstone of our success. W must stop making believe it is insignificant.

These religious freedoms are the foundation for an ever expanding and vibrant economy. These freedoms are the fertilizer that helps grow jobs.These freedoms are so envied that people from all over the world continually want to come here. Yes, the fact is, Freedom of Religion is the very lynchpin that has held us together throughout our 240 year history.

                                                                                                     






But now I am afraid. I am afraid because the insidious, intentional eroding of the foundation of our nation is being completely ignored. We are witnessing the weight of a secular self-centeredness that is not only methodically erasing  God's presence in our country but, along with God, the religious tenets (also called Natural Law) used as building blocks by our Founding Fathers.

  When people have the freedom to worship God unencumbered and without reservation, it frees up their spirit. They embrace this great gift and it results in personal growth and fulfillment. The United States of America proved to be the greatest nation in history because of an individual's freedom to be who they would be.

 Over the course of our American history there have been numerous Freedom of Religion cases that have impacted our nation. However, over the last  decade, the anti-religion, anti-God rhetoric has seemingly taken a secure foothold in the battle against the"Creator who has endowed us ALL with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". And yes, in the very first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence the name of GOD is actually used. He is NOT anathema to the United States of America.

It seems to me that we must stand up and fight back in defense of God and religion. Being a "none" is NOT a religion. being an atheist is NOT a religion and being a Satanist is NOT a religion. Religion is the means we use to worship God and we are free to do so. Religion does NOT define NOT worshiping God.

There is even an organization called the Freedom from Religion Foundation FFRF. Can someone explain to me how, in a country that proclaims Freedom of Religion as a fundamental right, a group can be legalized and can sue folks for expressing that freedom?   The Freedom From Religion Foundation is the antithesis of our primary, fundamental Constitutional right. It is even a functioning and approved non-profit 501(c)3 active in all 50 states. Does this make any sense at all? How can an entity whose primary purpose is to attack our First Amendment be legally sanctioned to do so?

Not worshiping or believing in God is our choice as Americans. Those of you who have chosen that route  have been blessed with this privilege. Many have died to secure this Freedom for you. Why, if you can non-worship the way you so choose, do you want to prevent others from worshipping as they choose? Why would the name of Jesus Christ, a simple carpenter who preached love and forgiveness, be offensive to anyone? Whatever is your self-absorbed, hateful motivation to attack the very freedom(s) that protect you? What are you so afraid of?

                                ©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved